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The Education of Harriet Hatfield
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The Education of Harriet Hatfield

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  233 ratings  ·  21 reviews
When Harriet Hatfield opens a bookstore for women in a blue-collar neighborhood near Boston, she is bombarded by anonymous threats. And when the Boston Globe reports "Lesbian Bookstore Owner Threatened", her education in the narrowmindedness of her fellow man--and woman--begins.W. Norton--Fiction)
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 13th 1991 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1989)
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The Education of Harriet Hatfield is a time capsule of an era (approx 1989) when American feminism (3rd wave, by my count) was on the upswing, AIDS was at its peak, and public opinion toward gays and lesbians was stumbling toward where it is now, 25 years later. The phenomenon of the "women's bookstore" was alive and well.

May Sarton's writing style lacks subtlety, her dialogs do more "telling" than "showing," and her characters are not granted much depth. I hate to say it, but the main character
I found this book to be charming and endearing. After Harriet's loss of her lifelong partner Vickie, she begins to realize how dependent and sheltered her life was in that relationship. She never regrets being with Vickie as she is the love of her life and always will be however she starts to step outside of her comfort zone and opens a feminist bookstore in a diverse but somewhat conservative area. With a few threats and attacks on her opening such a place, she never stops remembering why she w ...more
I enjoyed this book so much. Very low-key writing, but very well thought-out. Probably it helps that I have read several other books of hers. She touches on so many issues, from homosexuality and homophobia, to class differences; noting that racism is similar to sex discrimination.

Most interesting was her comment that, during the 30 years she [the main character] was in a relationship, her life centered around that relationship. And after her partner died, she felt very alone, and yet found tha
I found this book both enjoyable and thought-provoking. Many people reviewing it on Goodreads found it repetitive, but in my view the repetitions are part and parcel of Sarton's literary technique. The subject of the book is Harriet's reinvention of herself at 60, when she finds herself a widow all of sudden. For 30 years, she lived in the shadow of a richer and more powerful woman, Vicki, whose lead she followed in every respect. Now that she is on her own and has inherited a fair amount of mon ...more
Disappointing. May Sarton is excellent at writing journals and memoir. This novel features a lesbian who always thought "lesbian" was a dirty word. When her rich lover dies, Harriet inherits enough money to start a woman's book store. She is the target of vandals who commit a crime of violence because they think she sells porn. Harriet repeats the same thing over and over and over about how she had been in a relationship for thirty years but they never thought of themselves as lesbians. Some of ...more
Victoria S.
I wanted to like this book but was disappointed. The beginning was interesting:a 61 year old gay woman opens a feminists' book store after her partner of 30 years dies. The problem I had with it was the redundancy. The main character is constantly having the same thoughts and feelings with little change by the end. I finally skimmed to the ending, which was flat. The tension of the plot, threats made by homophobes, is too easily resolved and the main character's response is emotionless and unrea ...more
I enjoyed this book a lot. Not a huge page-turner...just a slow-paced, enjoyable book. May Sarton has extraordinarily taken just plain old life and chronicled everyday conversations without it being dull and boring. There is a lot of introspection in this book, and perhaps that's why I like it particularly right now, as I'm in an introspective mood.

The main character is a woman who has lost her partner of 30 years, and has decided to open a feminist bookstore. Of course, when you do any major u
Diane C.
An interesting, gently paced and written story from the early 90's, of Harriet, who has recently lost her successful, publisher life partner, Vicky. And who opens a women's bookstore in Boston, Mass, causing some controversy in the neighborhood.

I liked this book very much, for calmly and still emotionally tackling issues surrounding gay people and wanting to be accepted not as "gay" person, but just as a person.
Pmalcpoet Pat Malcolm
This book is my first venture into May Sarton's fiction; I've enjoyed her poetry and especially her memoirs over the years. The book is an exploration of topics of gay life, including coming out of the closet and AIDS, both within the larger issue of public reaction to gay people in their midst. It was important to remember this story was written in the late 1980's, when these were especially hot topics, and a diagnosis of AIDS was a death sentence. The story is immensely readable and provides a ...more
This novel is way too redundant with often choppy dialogue (and, at times, choppy narration). Sarton has some nice things to say, but the problem is that the people who will read this book will already agree with her and the people who should read this book won't read it. Additionally, it was clear she wrote the story with the express purpose of fitting the subject she wanted to "preach" about; it was not a smooth marriage of plot and theme. I was ready to like this one, so I'm a tad disappointe ...more
Robert Dunbar
Significant charm, but the rather delicate characters and situations are overwhelmed by the dialectic (which prevents it from being truly first rate). Still quite involving though.
This review says it all for me. Lovely, easy reading. "I enjoyed this book a lot. Not a huge page-turner...just a slow-paced, enjoyable book. May Sarton has extraordinarily taken just plain old life and chronicled everyday conversations without it being dull and boring. There is a lot of introspection in this book, and perhaps that's why I like it particularly right now, as I'm in an introspective mood."
Totally enjoyed this book about a 60 year old reinventing her life after a long term relationship. When her partner dies she begins to explore her true self and begins building and creating her dream by opening a women's specialty bookstore in a small town. She comes up against serious adversity and finds personal strength and new friendships and much support along the way. Good Read !
Claudia Douris
Another great book by Ms. Sarton! This is not a journal but fiction. An outcast Lesbian opens a book store for women in New England. Just read and see how the community reacts to her. Have we really come that far???
Eliz Fogarty
Generously gifted to me by a family member, and enjoyed for that reason. A well-meaning but not well-written story of a woman who comes out and comes into her own in her 60's. Repetitive and in need of good editing.
This book was wonderful. I would love to own my own bookstore or have a reading room. The woman in this book does just that but with a few struggles I would not have to deal with.
well to do lesbian struggles to open and run a book shop in Boston in the mid 1900s. Interesting Sarton, not memoir, but clearly based on herself in many aspects.
I gleaned so little enjoyment from this book that I can't even muster the energy to properly review it. Definitely not Sarton's best. (Probably her worst.)
JRobin Whitley
I love this book because of how it shows an older woman continues to grow. Sarton also does a great job of showing the importance of women supporting women.
Wendy Abramowitz
I found this book to have a very slow and boring story line. The character of Harriet doesn't come across as believable to me.

Absolutely great - it really looks at the question of labels!
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May Sarton was born on May 3, 1912, in Wondelgem, Belgium, and grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her first volume of poetry, Encounters in April, was published in 1937 and her first novel, The Single Hound, in 1938. An accomplished memoirist, Sarton boldly came out as a lesbian in her 1965 book Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing. Her later memoir, Journal of a Solitude, was an account of h ...more
More about May Sarton...
Journal of a Solitude The Fur Person The House by the Sea As We Are Now Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing

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